It sneaks up on you like the proverbial mugger. Except the landscape isn’t that of a murky backstreet as one might visualize. There’s no smoky silhouette nor shady characters in the midst. The scene is pleasant, stable, and somewhat bright in nature. Everything is ticking along rather nicely.
And then it happens.
The metaphorical blow to the brain that knocks you on your arse.
Everyone talks about the menopause. They always have. It’s a biological process, a time when our periods stop, and we can no longer conceive—in a nutshell.
What people don’t talk about is the astronomical build-up. Much like the anticipation anxiety encountered when going to the dentist, that’s never quite as bad when you get there. But that pre-appointment state of mind, well, that’s a bitch!
If you haven’t established what my ramblings refer to, I’ll tell you. I’m talking about the perimenopause.
You’re likely to be in your forties, but if you’re younger, that sucks. If you’re older, I’m envious. That said, it’s less than desirable whenever it reaches you. And it’s a dead cert that it will. Trust me—as certain as taxes and death.
The joy of reaching your forties is that, simply put, you stop giving a shit about the mundane bullshit that once ate you from the inside out. You learn to say no. You start to value the select few friends you have and no longer feel the need to impress irrelevant beings. You’re relatively comfortable in your skin (give or take), and you have some semblance of grounding.
Every day you follow the same routine, the one that you’ve become a master of. Except on this day, you experience an unexplainable sense of anger. The nostril-flaring, ear-steaming type.
Unable to appoint the emotion to anything specific, you start to search for potential triggers. It must be that, you tell yourself. It’s got to be that. Except it’s not, it’s just…there, like a lone-traveler that lost its way. As undeniably present as a hearse at a funeral.
Within a matter of moments, you’re encapsulated by a foreboding, a gut-level sadness that threatens to drown you. Then comes the ocean of tears with deep-rooted sobs in tow.
It all feels remarkably similar to pre-menstrual tension. There you go, you got your dates wrong, your period is imminent. Imminent disaster averted.
Except it’s not.
This process is repeated for several days or weeks until you decide to go and see your GP for fear of murdering an innocent bystander or forgetting your husband’s name. Chances are, a dear friend or relative has gently hinted at ‘your age, love!’ and those ‘dead certs’ we previously covered (not taxes or death—the other one!).
If your experience is anything like mine, then your GP runs a few blood tests, informs you that your FSH levels are completely normal, and “…by the way, have you encountered any excessive stress recently?”
“No, doc. I haven’t. I’m well. ‘Painfully’ well.”
“Oh. Then I’m sure it’ll pass.”
Blank face emoji.
You feel angry. Warm. Too warm. Not quite hot, but extremely warm. You rip your jumper off with the grace of a baby eating its porridge and take to your laptop. Slowly, you type in the words…
‘What are the symptoms of perimenopause?’
There’s a lot to be said for self-diagnosing when a GP can’t be bothered to do it for you. You start to feel less of a nut-job, yet you’re overwhelmed with a blinding fear of the imminent future.
‘It can last for ten years…’ you read in bold print.
A plethora of to-HRT-or-not-to-HRT (hormone replacement therapy) research later, plus a barrel of tears, a psychotic phase, a panic attack, and a near divorce, I realized it was time to consider a strategy.
I made a decision to opt out of HRT for numerous reasons, though not the obvious. My mind is my nemesis, and any alterations I make to my life can make or break me. Anxiety is my right-hand man; depression is my chief of staff. In truth, I can’t afford to aggravate my already imbalanced mindset because I know my body better than anyone else, and I’m just not prepared to take the risk.
That said, I’ve invested in a ton of perimenopause supplements, have begun taking CBD oil, and am in the process of altering my diet. But slowly—slowly is the key—a few weeks on, and I can feel the dark veil beginning to lift.
And what’s my most important message here?
This time marks a major landmark in your life. It can’t be brushed over or buried under the carpet; it needs to be addressed for your sanity alone.
Make a plan to focus on yourself, and do whatever you need to do to help you through this period. Be selfish, and take pride in it. Talk to peers, relatives, or random strangers that start frantically tearing off layers in a public arena.
“I got your back, sister!”
We ladies are all in this together. You’ll be amazed at how many people you know are experiencing the same symptoms as you. I know I was. In fact, the timing couldn’t be better, as the media are now frequently highlighting the importance of this phase for women.
This is a time to make the most of you. Change your wardrobe, treat yourself to that product that you decided against for whatever reason that was, go on that holiday, eat that cheesecake!
Be kind to yourself, and believe that you are part of a tribe of women who, like you, are avoiding the use of sharp knives unless completely necessary.